An enterprise resource pool is a great way to track and manage the people available to work on projects. It’s often set up by the Project Management Office and used to work out who is going to be a good fit for the skill needs of a new project.
Setting one up doesn’t have to be a big job or particularly complex, and many project management software tools will do this for you. Dan Lefsky, speaking at the PMI Global Congress EMEA in Barcelona, talked about the things you need to include in your resource pool data set in order to get the most use out of it.
Categories of Resource
He explained that a resource pool includes two types of resources:
The Data Needed For Your Resource Pool
He gave examples of the 8 things you need to consider and record for each named resource in order for you to be able to usefully draw on the data to select team members for upcoming projects. These are:
1. The Type of Resource
Is the person a Business Analyst, a Project Manager, a Quality Analyst, a User Experience expert, a Tech Writer, a Developer? Or something else? This is typically their job title and doesn’t necessarily reflect their particular skills.
This is where you record their skills. You’ll probably want to set up a drop down list or categories that you can tick from as searching free text fields is going to be too difficult once you’ve got all your resources on there. Skills can include programming languages, Agile/waterfall/hybrid PM methodologies and so on.
It’s worth noting the experience of each individual. This could include the departments they have worked on, the category of project they do, the number of years they have been at the company, or years’ experience overall in their role, the key relationships they have within informal networks etc.
Cost of resource is a factor. Are they charged at time and materials? Or fixed price? What’s their internal day rate when working on projects? You might not have costs for some resources because it’s moving ‘wooden dollars’ around the organisation and that’s fine, but if you intend to charge clients for resource time then you’ll need to know what each person costs.
Where is the resource based? For some projects it might not matter because they can work virtually, but for others it might have a significant impact. You could categorise these, Lefsky said, by onsite, offshore, onshore, nearshore or remote. Or you could list the city where they work (or do both).
6. Maximum Availability
This could change depending on their other commitments but it’s definitely a useful piece of information to have for some resources. For example, where an individual also works as a team manager, they will have certain management responsibilities that take up some time. These are things, speaking from experience, like approving timesheets, managing team’s expenses, team-level reporting, 1-to-1 meetings and performance reviews, dealing with sickness absence and so on.
You can’t allocate these people to your project 100% of the time. In fact, it’s not sensible to allocate anyone to your project 100% of the time. Note down what time they have outside their normal responsibilities that can be allocated to project work.
Knowing their line manager is helpful for resource requests.
8. Resource Breakdown Structure
Lefsky talked about positioning resources in the Resource Breakdown Structure (RBS) as this lets you see their security permissions, areas of control and similar. If you have a formal RBS then this could be worth doing but if you don’t, you could just as easily create another categorisation for security clearance if that was important to you.
Gather all this information and start to populate your enterprise resource pool. When you get started you’ll probably just focus on the people who spend a lot of time working on projects, but it’s worth expanding this if you can, and if you are going to take an enterprise-wide view of portfolio management. It’s a big job, and you have to reconcile the fact of treating individuals as ‘resources’ who can be put into little boxes and categorised, instead of the unique individuals that they are, but in large organisations particularly it can be incredibly successful.
Note that you’re going to have to continually review this. While someone’s job title might not change that often they could gain new experience through projects or develop new skills after training. Don’t let your resource pool data get out of date or you won’t benefit from being able to develop individuals or from letting them use new skills.
Do you use a resource pool? Let us know in the comments if it has been successful for you or whether – as I suspect it might be in many companies – it was set up as a one-off exercise and then not developed further, thus falling out of use very quickly. I look forward to hearing your experiences!
I’m off to Barcelona very, very soon, to get ready for the PMI Global Congress EMEA which is happening next week.
Here are the 10 things I am most looking forward to.
1. Great Networking
I’ve already arranged lunch with someone I’ve ‘met’ here on ProjectManagement.com. The discussion forums and messaging tools on the site really do allow you to make new connections that go far further than a simple ‘follow’.
I’m looking forward to meeting her and to finding out more about her project management world.
2. Great Speakers
The PMI events attract some great speakers and while there aren’t a lot of names I recognise on the line up (I don’t think anyone could top seeing Colin Powell for me – regardless of your opinion of his politics he was a fantastic headliner at one North America Congress), I know that they have all gone through a rigorous process for being selected.
I know that because I did too. I’m looking forward to meeting my fellow panellists at the session I am delivering on Wednesday. We’re giving a panel debate on future trends in project management and collaboration tools, as well as talking about how to practically use them in your job.
3. A Break
One of the main reasons I go to conferences is to recharge my batteries. I know that sounds ironic, as I often spend longer at the conference venue, then typing up my notes afterwards, than I do in a normal working day.
Plus it’s brain intense a lot of the time – not just listening to new ideas, but also having to think about everything from where to go to lunch to how to change my session registrations. Normally a work day includes at least some time where I’m doing something that I do regularly and can therefore do without thinking.
A good conference should mean I come home with loads of interesting ideas but most importantly, inspiration of how I can grow as a professional.
5. Practical Tips
The carer and personal growth thing is all good, but what I also need are practical tips that I can use in my project management day job from the moment I get back to the office. I’ll be hoping to mix up my sessions so I see a few inspirational, big picture talks and a few practitioner-level speakers for those practical takeaways.
6. Reaffirming Existing Connections
Yes, I hope to catch up with some old project management buddies. In fact, I’ve arranged to share an apartment with one, to keep costs down, get a nicer place between us and spend some time catching up.
I’m also hoping that there will be other old friends, colleagues, and clients there whom I can meet. We all work around the world, so while I’ve known some of them for years I don’t often get a chance to see them in person.
7. Great Food
I’m actually not a huge fan of tapas because I find it is way too easy to eat far too much. I also struggle to keep to Spanish dinner times and the trips I’ve had to Spain before have seen me go out to eat much earlier than the locals.
Having said that, the food is good, and I remember wonderful fish dinners on the seafront in Barcelona from previous visits.
Plus, churros. Need I say more?
8. Great Coffee.
It’s Spain. Of course the coffee is good.
9. A Sense of Community
One of the best things about being with loads of other people who love managing projects as much as I do is that it’s very reassuring to hear that we all have the same issues. “Oh, you have problems with stakeholders too, do you?” “Yes, my testing phase was just as terrible.”
We all live with the same challenges and it’s good to know that you are not alone in having to deal with an uncooperative sponsor.
10. Seeing My Book!
Collaboration Tools for Project Managers, my new book, will debut at the PMI Bookstore on site in Barcelona. I can’t wait, and I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to help myself from taking photos of it and then putting them on my Facebook page.
Published by PMI, it’s a totally revised and updated version of Social Media for Project Managers, building on everything that book covered and bringing it right up to date.
I haven’t yet seen a copy in real life and I’m so excited to know that it’s going to be there.
If you are going, get in touch through the PMI Congress app and I’ll try to find you to say hi!
At EVA20, London’s alternative project management conference which was held earlier this year, Sir Tim Laurence, Chair of the Major Projects Association, talked about the initiatives that are in place for improving major projects.
The MPA was set up 30 years ago to share experiences, knowledge and ideas about major projects – both things that were successful and ideas that had failed – with the objective of helping other project leaders to initiate and deliver better projects, avoiding the mistakes of the past.
Sir Tim talked about the four initiatives underway with the MPA at the moment.
A Procurement Routemap
The procurement routemap includes capability management and it’s aimed at setting up projects to succeed from the beginning. “No one sets out to fail on a major project,” said Sir Tim. He didn’t share the details of this but it’s a way of making sure contracts are effective and realistic enough to support major projects from the start.
Green Book Plus
The Treasury’s Green Book is the definitive guide for deciding which major projects should move forward but Sir Tim explained that it struggles with the largest initiatives. Planning and business cases need to be more realistic, more rounded and more honest. Green Book Plus is going to try to provide that framework.
This initiative supports the process of choosing which projects to do at a national level. It aims to make sure that politicians are better placed to judge which initiatives to do. Deciding on a major project, said Sir Tim, is not something that we are good at in the UK.
To give an example, there is currently an open decision on how best to extend the airport capability within London. Both Heathrow and Gatwick airports have expressed an interest at being the one that ‘wins’ the investment for expansion. In something I’ve never seen before, both airports are campaigning to the public with posters on public transport and in other ways too. This isn’t Britain’s Got Talent: the public don’t get to vote on which airport gets the extra runway. But savvy airport operators know that dangling the carrot of good jobs, infrastructure and expansion can influence the local community who in turn influence their elected representatives, who in turn… The information coming from the decision makers is not good enough, so a whole additional level of media and information has been put out there.
The Knowledge Hub
Third, there is an initiative underway to capture key lessons. Lessons learned is something that major projects are not set up to do and the learnings are often not followed through, Sir Tim explained, citing Crossrail as an example.
We’ve tried this as a nation before. The APM’s involvement in creating the learning legacy from the 2012 Olympics was huge and hugely successful. I don’t know why that major investment in changing the culture of large projects to include the discipline of lessons learned and sharing best practice wasn’t continued after that event. If something like the good work and significant outpouring of lessons wasn’t enough to kick start a change in how we approach this area of project management, then I’m not sure that another initiative is going to have much success either.
But good luck to them, it’s certainly something that project management overall does not do well at and anything that keeps it at the forefront of people’s minds has to be a good thing.
A mentoring programme for senior leaders is important because often mentoring initiatives are offered at entry and mid-career points, without much support for the people at the top. Those individuals still benefit from an impartial, external point of view and the opportunity to bounce ideas around in a safe environment, which is essentially what mentoring is.
“Good judgement, good decision making, good strong, clear leadership,” summarised Sir Tim, going on to add that you can learn these skills. They are not innate and can improve with time. The benefit of developing skills like these is that we build more competent, successful leaders and share good practice. “When people are put in difficult situations the can trust their instincts and get things done,” he said.
The common theme amongst all these initiatives is that project initiation is important. Getting projects right from the start, whether that’s at the point of project selection, business case, choosing the leader or creating an environment for success based on the lessons from the past – it all makes a huge difference to the outcome. Let’s influence eventual project success by setting up projects correctly at the beginning. We can all do that, regardless of the size and scale of your project.
At the PMI Hungary Chapter international Art of Projects conference in Budapest this month, Rick Graham spoke about risk management in the globalised world. He talked about how Monte Carlo analysis is used to establish risk and how companies gather sophisticated data to make good decisions about the actions they need to take as a result of identifying risk.
Rick said that there are three levels of risk management that apply to projects.
1. Project risk
This is perhaps the most obvious. These risks do not recognise interdependencies and risks outside the scope of the project. Rick recommended doing Monte Carlo analysis at this level to identify project risk. He also talked about scenario building as a good tool for project risk identification and management, giving the example of Shell.
Shell was the only company which modelled the risk of the OPEC countries putting up the price of oil. Because of their analysis they were able to adapt their plants to deal with less refined oil and gained a two-year head start on the competition when the prices did go up.
Rick recommended “building limited models around sensitive areas”: in other words, not spending time on modelling when the risk is low or when it isn’t worth doing. Models and analysis help explain the risk you are taking at the project level in comparative terms, which helps set them in context for team members and stakeholders.
2. Project selection risk
At this level the question relates to how risk plays a part in making decisions about which projects should be started. The challenge here is whether the business just says yes or no to a project without looking at the overall position and the wider business requirements.
For example, a risky project may not be inherently bad for the business. If you always say no to risky projects you end up with a portfolio full of low risk but also probably low benefit projects that present reduced opportunities for the company.
This level links to the strategic objectives and how the deliverables will be achieved in the organisational context.
It should also include the risk of not doing or deferring the project, as that decision presents a different path forward for the business with its own challenges.
3. Project portfolio risk
This is where you start to look outside the projects as individual initiatives and start to gather rich data about the organisation’s approach to risk management as a whole.
Rick recommended doing Monte Carlo analysis at programme level to identify risks across dependent streams of work. He then talked about using this output to identify the right combination of projects to work on at portfolio level.
The problem I found with this model is that there isn’t any level that I can see where risks fit that fall outside the project but that are managed in some shape or form by the project manager. For example, dependencies on other projects – the risk that the other project may not deliver on time. Or the risk that the company might go bust – this is out of scope of the project but something like this could feasibly be on your risk register.
This model also assumes that you have a process to apply risk management to.
Rick said that you can only do portfolio level risk management if there is one single repository of project data. This isn’t the case in many businesses where project managers are based in functional silos and even if there is a PMO it serves one business unit and not the enterprise as a whole.
A spreadsheet is good enough for this: no need to invest in anything more complicated, he said. You can start to put some science behind your spreadsheet once you have everything documented in one place.
Do you measure and manage risk at these three levels? Let us know how it works for you in the comments.
At the Gartner PPM & IT Governance Summit last month Donna Fitzgerald gave a presentation about the factors that go to support a stellar delivery organisation. That’s a fancy way of saying getting your project management maturity levels up so you have a better chance of project success every time.
The Gartner PPM maturity level model includes 5 levels of maturity but Donna said very few clients make it Level 5. “Life at Level 2,” she said, “is no longer good enough. Many organisations are facing the crash and burn. They are operating in a perfectly acceptable paradigm for yesterday.”
The jump for Level 2 to Level 3 is what Donna called ‘crossing the chasm’. It’s the difference between process controls, governance and management and balancing capabilities and delivering measurable business value. That is quite a leap.
Don’t project manage everything
One of my top takeaways from Donna’s presentation was the fact that you don’t need a project manager for everything. Too often I see little projects managed by project managers when the development team or a business team could have managed it perfectly well by themselves (and 10 years ago did exactly that). If you want to do more with the skilled project resources that you have, stop asking them to work on business as usual projects that other teams can handle. “For optimal project success you want the work done in less than 6 months and full time staff of 5 for a half-time project manager,” she said. Project management deals with the uncertain, risky and complicated, she concluded, so if your project isn’t like that, then it doesn’t need a project manager.
If you do have a half-time project manager on the team she recommended time boxing their commitment. It’s now commonly believed that multi-tasking is bad and that humans aren’t very good at switching between tasks. Therefore if you are scheduled to work 50% of your time on one project and 50% on another project, make it so. Work Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday morning on one project and the rest of the week on the other. Don’t try to do both at the same time. A consulting firm wouldn’t expect someone to jump between assignments with an hour here, an hour there, she explained, so you can make fixed time allotments work.
I’m sure you can, but it’s going to be a mindset change for the workplaces I’ve experienced. Project queries and stakeholder phone calls don’t stop because it’s a Thursday.
“Done,” Donna said, “means the short list of things that define the business capability [being delivered by the project].” This is not the requirements document as that document is really a contract with an external supplier, she said. I would argue that it’s also often a document for internal supplier teams to work from and while you’re not likely to sue the team that sits on the other side of the office to you, there is a chance that you’ll use the requirements document as a basis to sue a vendor for failed delivery.
Define ‘done’ with your project team and sponsors so that you’ll know when you get there and you can work towards achieving that.
Don’t start without committed stakeholders
This was another major takeaway for me. Donna is ruthless! She said we shouldn’t start a project without committed stakeholders. She said that if they don’t turn up to the initial meetings (as sometimes happens) then don’t be afraid to ‘throw them under the bus’.
Say: “I’m sorry, I didn’t realise this was a bad time to start this project. We’ll reschedule.” And leave the meeting room or their office. Sometimes you’ll come across stakeholders who genuinely aren’t able to support the project right now and that’s OK. Reschedule project initiation for a time when they can commit. But sometimes people are just lazy or unclear on their responsibilities or happy to delegate everything to you and take no role in their project at all, and that’s where the bus comes in.
Make time to reflect
Part of delivering a stellar project organisation is knowing that things need tweaking. And with the stresses of managing projects it is unlikely that you, as a PMO Manager or even as a project manager thinking about your own project culture, have time to do that.
Make time was Donna’s recommendation. “Nothing ever gets fixed if you don’t realise it’s not working,” she said.
Book two afternoons per month to get away from your desk and think. Start with saying, where am I, where are we, what’s the health of my projects, what’s bothering me. Sometimes you can’t see patterns in behaviour because you are too close to them day-to-day so this gives you the opportunity to reflect and objectively assess what is going on.
She recommended we spend 20% of our time talking to sponsors and extended stakeholders as this is good for careers, and it’s what successful PMO Managers do. I don’t think I do that, but it’s certainly something I would like to focus on.
These were the top tips I took away from Donna’s very practical presentation. I hope they help you!
You can follow Donna Fitzgerald on Twitter @nimblepm.
I attended the Gartner Summit as a guest of Genius Project.